According to Britt Bunn, co-founder and COO of home furnishings startup The Inside, the modern consumer has a trifecta of expectations: a frictionless user experience, the ability to personalize product, and great content that inspires. Some manufacturers—especially in the home furnishings category—may say the three-part promise is unrealistic, but Bunn relishes the challenge.
“What are sometimes considered unreasonable shopper expectations actually force every store to be a better version of itself,” says Bunn on this week’s episode of the Business of Home podcast. “[As a result,] we’re getting better experiences across the board in all kinds of categories. I think furniture is a slow-moving one because it’s so logistics-heavy, but here we are.”
By ‘we,’ Bunn means the team at The Inside, the digital-first, furniture-on-demand retail company she co-launched with design world entrepreneur Christiane Lemieux in 2017. Built like a cost-effective, custom workroom, The Inside allows consumers to choose a piece of furniture online (from slipper chairs, headboards and beds to ottomans, screens and removable wallpaper), and select a fabric from more than a hundred options and a finish (brass, chrome, or wood in gray, black or espresso). Two to three weeks later, voilà: a personalized piece is drop-shipped to your door.
With its trend-driven upholstery options and speedy turnaround times, The Inside’s model quickly garnered fast-fashion comparisons—an assessment Bunn doesn’t entirely agree with. “There’s this concept of reaction to trends and bringing it to market in a really fast way—that’s what’s interesting to us. We’re fundamentally different [than fast-fashion retailers] in that we’re not holding any inventory, so we’re not creating a lot of inexpensive stuff and waste in the world. It’s more about finding trends at a more accessible price point.”
By removing inventory risk with on-demand American manufacturing and using 3-D renderings for all of its product and lifestyle imagery, The Inside has restructured the material economics of furniture manufacturing. It’s a capital-light business model that attracted the attention of venture capitalists last fall, resulting in $2.6 million in funding.
On this week’s episode of the BOH podcast, Bunn shares how the company plans to spend the new capital, the secret to acquiring new customers and what’s next for The Inside.